How to complain about bad architectural work

If you’ve encountered bad architectural work and want to complain, your rights will depend on whether you hired a qualified architect. Our guide takes you through the complaints procedure.

Check the ARB register

You should first check the ARB register to find out if you're not sure whether the person or firm you hired are fully qualified architects. If they are on the register, this means they are fully qualified and you will have more protection. If they aren't registered, you have limited protection.

'Architect' not on register

If the person you hired is not on the ARB register, unfortunately this means they are not a qualified architect. As a result, your options are limited.

If you would like to complain, you should contact the person, partnership or firm you hired to explain why you are disappointed by their work and give them a chance to put things right.

If they are unable to put things rights, you should raise your complaint with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute who may be able to advise you further.

Chance to put things right

If you would like to complain, you should contact the architect or their partnership or firm directly to explain why you are disappointed by their work and give them a chance to put things right.

Check what was said in writing about roles and responsibilities at the beginning of your project in addition to the terms and conditions of the contract or agreement that your architect drew up.

Put your complaint in writing so that both you and your architect have a record of your concerns and try to set out the details of your complaint as clearly as possible.

You should explain to your architect what action you would like them to take to settle your complaint.

Finally, ask who will deal with your complaint, and how long it is likely to take.

Your architect should have a written procedure for handling complaints and should acknowledge your first complaint within 10 working days from receiving it.

They should give you a response within 30 working days from receiving your complaint, addressing the issues you raised. If appropriate, they may suggest alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation or conciliation.

Make notes of any meetings that you have, and keep copies of any letters you send to your architect.

Complain to the ARB

If you were unable to resolve your issue by going to your architect directly and you believe you have experienced either unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence from a registered architect, you should follow the ARB’s online complaints procedure.

Failures to meet the standards of conduct that the ARB expects of architects will be heard by the ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee.

Unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence are the two ‘offences’ that the committee has the power to investigate.

There are four penalties the committee could apply, which depend on how serious the architect’s offence is.

These include:

  • a formal warning (a reprimand)
  • a fine – currently up to a maximum of £5,000
  • suspending them from the ARB register for up to two years (this means they would not be able to describe themselves as an architect for business purposes during this time)
  • removing them from the ARB register (so they wouldn’t be able to work using the title ‘architect’)

If you’re not happy with the conduct of the ARB, you should contact them to explain why. You can also contact the ARB to request access to their customer service complaints form online or in hard copy.

Make a claim

If you have been unable to reach an agreement with your architect, you may consider alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, or taking legal action. If this is the case, you might want to take legal advice to find out what the options are for your particular circumstances.

Misuse of title

If the person, firm or partnership you hired used the title ‘architect’ in any correspondence – for example, on headed notepaper, business cards or planning applications – that clearly shows that they were claiming to be an architect when they weren’t on the ARB register, this is a misuse of the title.

The title ‘architect’ is protected by law and the ARB works to regulate the misuse of the title, so you should notify the ARB if it is being misused. It will be able to help you and inform you on whether you have grounds to prosecute.

If the person you hired did not use the title ‘architect’ in any correspondence, but used a slightly altered title or misspelling of ‘architect’, the ARB will not be able to help.

Please tell us what you think of the Which? Consumer Rights website.

Your feedback is vital in helping us improve this site. All data will be treated confidentially. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Please take our survey so we can improve our website for you and others like you.